A man was injured late this afternoon when a Sound Transit light-rail train and a car collided at Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and South Myrtle Street.
A motorist received minor injuries Monday in a collision with a Sound Transit light-rail train in Rainier Valley, the third incident since frequent train testing began there this spring.
The crash happened just after 5 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and South Myrtle Street, next to the Othello light-rail station in Southeast Seattle.
Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said the car was heading south and made a left turn, against a red light, from MLK Way onto Myrtle as the train traveled south alongside in the median of MLK.
The driver, a man in his 70s, was taken away by ambulance with minor injuries, said Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick.
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Emergency crews tore the roof off the car to remove the driver, said Fitzpatrick. He was the sole occupant, transit officials said.
At the time of the crash, the train was traveling at low speed because it was about to stop at the station, Gray said. The train T-boned the car.
The crash caused minor damage to a front panel on the train. It drove under its own power to the maintenance facility.
Sound Transit is testing its trains along the 14-mile route from downtown Seattle to Tukwila, in preparation for service to begin July 18.
After the wreck was cleared at 6:30 p.m. train tests resumed.
This is the third incident involving a test train in Rainier Valley, where tracks run in a median at street level. Two were crashes with cars, and in one case, a person walked into the side of a train, according to Sound Transit.
“We’ve been running 20 hours a day for over a month here. We think people are getting used to it, but incidents like this are a reminder for people to follow the rules,” Gray said.
Sound Transit officials say their rail project has improved overall safety on MLK Way, by eliminating two-way left-turn lanes that used to play a major role in both motorist and pedestrian injuries.
Dana Echols, who said she witnessed the crash, and another bystander, Than Pham, said the rail intersections should have crossing gates.
Sound Transit didn’t install crossing arms because trains are going at the normal traffic speed of 35 mph or less, Gray said, and because neighbors in public-comment sessions didn’t want the area looking like a freight-train corridor.
A decade ago, an environmental-impact statement predicted 29 car-train collisions per year, and three with pedestrians, based on experience in other cities. Transit officials said actual numbers would be less in Seattle, because of improved warning signals and road designs, as well as relatively careful drivers here.
Critics of the project urged local politicians not to mix light rail with street traffic, before groundbreaking in 2003. Many U.S. cities, including Portland, run trains along arterial streets.
Sound Transit has visited many schools and groups to preach rail safety, while giving out water bottles, rulers and a board game with safety slogans. The agency and teenagers have made online videos, urging young people to keep off the tracks.
Jaywalking is still commonplace across MLK, while some motorists are noticeably enraged by longer wait times at traffic lights, where trains take priority.
“I just think that a lot of kids, Lord forbid, will be running across the train tracks thinking they can make it, and they’re going to get hit,” said Echols. “The train’s not even open yet, and people are already getting in accidents.”
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org